J. Kenji Lopez Alt is a genius at food. He is a cook book author, famed chef, contributor to Cook’s Illustrated and to Serious Eats, among many other things. He has a very scientific approach to cooking, experimenting to get the exact results he wants, and explaining the reason he takes the steps he takes to get the results he wants. Check it out here.
In this recipe, chef Kenji, as his fans call him, deconstructs the famous and beloved McDonald’s French Fry. He discovered that boiling the fries rinses off simple sugars from the surface, allowing them to stay gloriously light golden brown. It also activates an enzyme that allows the potato to firmer when deep fried, producing the tiny, crusty, crispy, blistered surface of the McDonald’s French Fry. The purpose of the vinegar is to help the potatoes keep their shape while that enzyme is activated.
Chef Kenji also highly recommends freezing the fries between the first and second deep frying stages. Freezing fries makes the water in them turn to ice crystals; those crystals damage the cells of the potato, making it easier for those ice crystals to be released once heated again, turning to steam and created a fluffy, not gummy, french fry interior. Plus, since this is a multi step process, having the option and suggestion to freeze half way through is quite convenient.
The only changes I have made to this recipe are that I use my deep fryer since I am lazy, and my french fry cutter because I am very lazy. Please enjoy and seek out more recipes by J. Kenji Lopez Alt- you will be amazed!
Ingredients: (recipe credit to J.Kenji Lopez Alt)
4 large Russet potatoes, well scrubbed
2 quarts of water
2 tablespoons of vinegar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
Vegetable, safflower, canola or peanut oil - enough to fill your frying equipment to the fill line of your dutch oven 4 inches deep
Cut your potatoes in half, then cut them into 1/4 inch square strips. I have a wall-mounted french fry cutter that makes this process go very quickly. Put the cut potatoes in 2 quarts of cold water; this will prevent the potatoes from browning as you work.
Place the potatoes, soaking water, vinegar, 2 tablespoons of salt into a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue to cook for 10 minutes. The potatoes should be tender but not falling apart. Dry them well with paper towels and let them air dry on a wire rack for about 5 minutes as well.
Heat your oil to 375 degrees F (my max when using my deep fryer- if you are using a dutch oven, heat the oil to 400 degrees F). Add 1/3 of your potatoes in, stirring them to prevent sticking, and cook for about 50 seconds. Remove from the heat, drain on a paper towel lined baking sheet, and repeat the process. Allow them to cool to room temperature (you can freeze these fries at this stage for later use and cook directly from frozen).
Bring your oil back to 375 degrees F (or 400, as discussed) when your fries are cold. Preheat you oven to 200 degrees F and prepare 2 baking trays; once lined with paper towels and once bare.
Again working in batches, cook the french fries in the oil for 3 1/2 minutes. Place them on the paper towel lined baking tray to drain the excess oil and sprinkle with salt immediately. Enjoy right away, or transfer them to the baking sheet in the 200 degree F oven to keep them warm until you can enjoy them.